04 January 2015

Count: My One Word for 2015

I love the newness of January. It's when I start my new journal, empty and ready to be filled with learning and memories and goals and reflections. It's when I evaluate myself: my goals, my habits, my routine, my spiritual growth, my choices. It's a time to meditate on what matters and realign my days to focus on what counts.

So it was during this self-reflection that I found and committed myself to my one word for 2015:

How does the Bible prioritize things? How should I? What in my day-to-day really counts?

{not works}

For what does the Scripture say? 
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 
And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, 
his faith is counted as righteousness,
Romans 4:3-5

For years, I have counted my works: my sacrifices, my ministry involvement, my people reach. It was a self-centered tally, an effort at being noticed and being praised, a misdirected focus.

What is counted as righteousness? Not works. It's faith. And, really, only God can measure that. It's a personal surrender, a doulos-mentality of bowing our hearts and hands to a Lord who needs nothing from us. It's a one-track-mind that sings out JESUS with every choice, every word, every breath. It's a life bowed low in worship that He may be seen instead of us.

I need to stop counting what I do.
Righteousness isn't avoiding sin. It's pursuing God.*

{not involvement}

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, 
does not first sit down and count the cost, 
whether he has enough to complete it? 
Luke 14:28

I had two burnouts this year, complete with health problems and borderline depression. One emerged during a full-fledged writing project and the second slammed me after a season of coaching. During both sleep-depriving and body-aching sessions, I missed my young kids terribly, who usually get all my attention. Sporadically through the year, I also took on mini-assignments that would torture our home life for a 48-hour push to the deadline. 

This can't happen. I need to count the cost before I involve myself. Otherwise, I will feel like Bilbo--"like butter spread over too much bread." 

Before choosing to involve myself, I need to weigh the time needed, the energy I have available, and the impact it will have on my family. I must remember that my first commitment is to my husband and children. Extra projects I take on must fit around those larger and more important commitments and not rob our home of peace, joy, and health.

{not stress}

Count it all joy, my brothers, 
when you meet trials of various kinds, 
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness
And let steadfastness have its full effect, 
that you may be perfect and complete, 
lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4

When interruptions come, I cringe. But that's not the right response, so says the Bible-- 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Through Him we have also obtained access by faith 
into this grace in which we stand, 
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings
knowing that suffering produces endurance
and endurance produces character
and character produces hope
and hope does not put us to shame
because God's love has been poured into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

It's like a writing assignment in class. (I'm an English teacher, so bear with me here.) Growing up, the word "essay" might as well have been a curse. It meant putting aside hobbies, hanging out, and being a couch potato so we could get the assignment done--and done well enough to get a good grade. My friends and I would groan when saying, "I have to write an essay!"

Then one day in college, another student changed my perspective forever. My friend randomly asked her friend in the cafeteria to hang out with us. "No, I can't," she responded with a smile. "I've been working on an essay all morning and need to finish it by tonight." I waited for the usual complaining, but instead she said, "I'm really enjoying it!

And we should. We should enjoy writing essays. We're being forced to prioritize something different than ourselves. We're being forced to learn things that are important and life-relevant (if your English teacher is a good one, that is). We're improving how we write and therefore how we communicate with other people so as to be heard, understood, and considered. We're being given a gift through the challenge of an essay.

And likewise, we should count it joy when we face trials. We're being forced to reevaluate our priorities and look outside of ourselves. We're being forced to learn things that are important and life-relevant (because our God is a good One!). We're improving how we trust God, apply truth, and deal with difficulty and therefore how we influence and help others. It's a gift in the form of a challenge

So my response should not be stress and groaning but rather joy


Now, here are two practical things I will do this year to encourage my focus on "count." 
  1. I will blog about this word at the beginning of each month! There is a graphic in the right sidebar that you can click on to see all these posts throughout the year and follow how this focus realigns my world.
  2. I will be counting gifts! Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts really made an impact on me last month when I read it, and I've been casually writing down blessings since then. I want to make it more of a habit by designating a journal for this that comes with me everywhere. Thankfulness truly does keep our eyes on God!


So there is my one word for 2015, the word I will whisper throughout my day to realign myself to what matters:

Instead of works, faith is counted as righteousness.
When involving myself, count the cost.
And if I'm gifted with a trial, count it all joy.

Abide in Him,

Have you made new year resolutions or chosen one word? Will you share with us?
Have you read One Thousand Gifts? Do you count blessings too?

You're invited to read others' "One Word for 2015" at Velvet Ashes' The Grove.

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*This line is paraphrased from a conclusion made by Eric Metaxas in his excellent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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